Food and Family: How the Two Keep Hispanics, Latinos Together, and Traditions Shared with Northeast Ohio

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The recipes that are now creating heirlooms in Northeast Ohio all started humbly in family kitchens or through a street taco.

CLEVELAND – In Hispanic and Latin culture, food is the common thread that unites family and friends.

Despite being a minority in Cleveland, Latinos have a rich history of sharing food and culture in Northeast Ohio, and what creates memories and legacies began in their homes.

“[I really like] keep it simple. Coriander and onion, bringing all the flavors, ”said Cilantro Taqueria co-owner Reynaldo Galindo.

Tacos, for some, are a tasty and delicate meal, more certain.

“[Here,] have music, ”Galindo said. “I feel like you don’t really experience taquerias here.”

In every bite of the tacos served at Cilantro Taqueria are generations of tradition and family, ingredients for which there are no substitutes.

“I remember she walked into Luchita’s and saw her in the kitchen,” Galindo said.

Galindo is the grandson of Maria de la Luz Munoz, known in Cleveland as Luchita Galindo.

“My mother grew up in Mexico,” said Mari Galindo, one of Luchita’s daughters. “She was very humble, very shy, and weighed around 98 pounds.”

Originally running a leather shoe company in Mexico while raising eleven children, cooking wasn’t a profession for Luchita at the time, but it came naturally.

“We joked that she was like the godfather because she would be surrounded by all these people with her delicious food,” said Mari.

Once settled in Cleveland, word of her talent spread.

“People always told him, ‘you have to open a restaurant,’” said Mari. “That’s how Luchita started. We ended up having 11 Luchita. It was her baby after raising her 11 babies.

After 25 years of sharing recipes and building a community, Luchita has retired. Only one “Luchita’s Restaurant” remains, the original on West 117 St., in the western part of Cleveland.

Luchita’s influence remains in the new generations, including Cilantro Taqueria.

“Have you always wanted to open a restaurant,” asked 3News reporter Marisa Saenz.

“No, I really wanted to go to school. I have always liked cars, ”replied Galindo.

From the automotive industry, Galindo would pivot towards what he knew growing up: catering.

A path also familiar to Mark Puente.

“I spent 15 years as a truck driver in Cleveland. I was hired at The Plain Dealer in 2005,” Puente said.

Puente’s career as a journalist would be fulfilling, taking him across the country, covering the tough news.

“Now we’re here to make tacos,” Puente said.

“Avocado salsa, salsa verde, red salsa, cilantro, onions, lime, radish. That’s all typical [Los Angeles] street taco that I fell in love with when I was working at a newspaper, ”Puente described.

Back in Cleveland, Puente is now building his small business: Puente’s Tijuana Tacos.

“It’s a family affair, from start to finish: close friends, friends of our children,” Puente said.

Relatives are involved in the process every step of the way, a simple reflection of how Puente lived her life and now shares her food with Northeast Ohio.

“We couldn’t have done that or got the licenses or do the events without a family,” Puente said.

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Editor’s Note: The video in the player above is from a previously published and unrelated story.


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